This next read I came across on Booktok, but this one has its differences. I discovered an indie author making their namesake and promoting this book of theirs, and I got convinced to pick it up. I am so glad that I stumbled upon Rachael Watson and this impressive start to her storytelling.
Kyla finally gets her shot to join the religious elite, until one of the God Sage’s acolytes gets murdered and a secret of hers almost gets brought to life. Marlowe’s parents were executed by said religious leaders, and he tries to keep his sister, an illegal healer, safe from those wanting her dead. The two’s worlds soon collide as Marlowe seeks safety and Kyla searches for a sign.
I never expected to enjoy a fantasy book where religion was the core of the story, but I really liked this take! This may be a spoiler, but it pins on individuals within the religion being corrupt rather than the whole church. And I liked that being shown in and out of the religious circles, and then seeing how that impacted the world. Even though I’m not religious myself, I like to see these impacts on the world just knowing how much religion has impacted certain countries in our world.
The characters were very compelling. The first thing I always look out for is if the characters are distinguishable, and Watson completely achieved that beyond just sticking to character roles. Their personalities and motivations were each very clear and you could understand a lot about them as a result. They were very well rounded, distinct, and sometimes with stereotypes that hit too close to home.
However, I think the pacing of the A plot, Kyla’s plot, and the B plot, Marlowe’s plot, could have been mirrored better. Telling two stories at once is very hard, and Watson did NOT do a terrible job, but still improvements could be made. It felt like one story progressed slower than the other and then it switched around, until the climax where both hit at once. It felt like maybe two acts of a story instead of three. But it was a very entertaining two-act story, if you would call it that at all.
This book also had a very strong aesthetic feel in my mind. I envisioned this world as dark and gritty, especially as we took a glimpse at some of the darker magics, with the main magic system of the healing brought by the God Sage (and thus the churches) leaning to brightness, purity and cleanliness. A stereotypes that gets distorted and broken as we see more sides of the same story, and we see cracks.
Watson is an author to look out for. I’ll be picking up the rest of the books in this series very soon.
Forbidden Healing gets a score of 4/5. I guess religion in fantasy is fun to study sometimes.